I now have empathy for those waterlogged people down in Florida. Just 24 hours of Jeanne's remnants, and I am OVER it.
Ventured out of my apartment on West 47th last night around 6:45PM to head to a book party for my friend AJ Jacobs, author of the just-released "The Know-It-All." The party was at the Carriage House on East 38th and Lexington.
Even in the best of weather, there's no good way to get from 47th and 10th to 38th and Lex during rush hour. Taxis are out of the question. A crosstown bus is an even more laughable proposition. And going on foot? Maybe if you're from Kenya. And remember: it was POURING.
So I took what I thought would be the least of all evils: the subway.
Even this method is difficult at best. My options were as follows:
A) Walk 4 blocks over to Broadway and take the N/R/W to 34th St, then walk 3 more blocks over to Lex and then 4 blocks up to 38th.
B) Walk 2 blocks over to 8th, then 5 blocks down to 42nd, then take the No. 7 to Grand Central, then walk over to Lex and down 4 more blocks.
C) Blow off party, order Chinese, watch TV in underwear.
I went with B.
I arrived at the 42nd St platform to find it unbearably humid and teaming with people. The crowd became denser and the heat more profound as I made my way through that underground tunnel that connects the 8th Ave side to the 7th Ave side of the station.
I hate that tunnel under the best of circumstances. It always makes me think of that ice-bridge thing that Steve Austin has to cross in the Sasquatch episode of "The Six Million Dollar Man."
And what's with those weird placards that spell out a poem, one phrase at a time? "Overworked/So Tired./If Late/Get Fired./Why Bother?/Why the Pain?/Just Go Home/Do It Again."
Is that the creepiest, most depressing poem you've ever read? What is the MTA trying to do, induce mass suicide?
Anyway, by the time I reached the middle of the tunnel, the crowd had stopped moving. I don't mean slowed down -- I mean stopped. Thousands of commuters, standing completely still in a hot, humid underground tunnel.
It took less than a minute for several typical New Yorkers in the crowd to begin yelling out things like, "Yo!" and "What's da holdup?" and "What happened?" and "Why, I oughtta...!"
"The E-train is out," somebody said in a calm, even voice. (It may have actually been God talking.) "Everybody going to Queens is heading over to the 7. It's a bottleneck."
As I began to mop my face with my shirt and ponder what would happen if a terrorist set off a bomb... say.... RIGHT NOW..., I noticed a very strange thing happening:
Absolute quiet. Nobody spoke. Nobody pushed or shoved. Nobody began playing bongos or trying to sell batteries.
Instead, this giant, sweaty, anxious bunch of New Yorkers waited silently until finally, in teeny, tiny increments, we began to move forward. It was like we all made a silent pact with one another: "Look, don't make this any worse than it already is by acting like an asshole."
The bottleneck ended the moment I reached the 7th Avenue platform about ten minutes later. I got right on a waiting No. 7 train and drank in the delicious air conditioning.
It occurred to me how true it is, particularly after 9/11, that people are often at their best in times of crisis (no matter how minor this one turned out to be). That even in a city as loud, rude and confrontational as New York, we haven't lost our ability to come together for the greater good.
A comforting thought as I stepped out into the rain.